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For the Love of Mike
By Rhys Bowen
St. Martin's Press Copyright © 2003 Rhys Bowen
All rights reserved.
J. P. Riley and Associates,
M. Murphy Notes:
Monday, Oct. 14, 1901
Followed JBT from his office at 38 Wall Street. Observed him entering 135 E. Twelfth Street at approximately 7:40 P.M.
Actually I had been guessing at the time. I heard the clock on Grace Church, a couple of blocks away at Tenth and Broadway, chiming the half hour and it hadn't yet chimed the three quarters, but in my profession guessing wasn't really good enough. I'd just have to get myself a watch. I sensed my mother turning in her grave at the thought of such presumptive ideas. No one in Ballykillin had ever owned a watch, apart from the family at the big house, and they didn't count, being English. It was a pity I hadn't managed to get my hands on Paddy Riley's pocket watch before the police took his body away. Now it was probably on some sergeant's watch chain, where it was going to stay put, and as for myself, I wasn't making enough money to indulge in luxuries. If you want a real confession, I wasn't making any money at all.
After a rather eventful summer during which I found myself without an employer, I had decided to run J. P. Riley and Associates (I being the associate) without him and had taken over a couple of the divorce cases that were still on his books. The first of them was resolved by the parties in question, who reconciled during a romantic summer encounter at Newport, Rhode Island. I learned this from the wife, who sent me ten dollars, "for my time and trouble." Since I'd been tramping all over the city, locating the different actresses and brothels that the wandering Mr. Pfitzer had been visiting, the ten dollars hardly covered my time and trouble, but there wasn't much I could do about it. These society people knew each other and I'd not be likely to find any more clients if I aggravated the few I had. But the cheek of it still rankled. I wondered if she'd send her doctor ten dollars for his time and trouble if the patient recovered after his ministrations!
But I was learning to hold my tongue when necessary nowadays and sent the good lady a receipt for her donation. The other investigation was still ongoing, which was why I was spending a long, dreary evening on the sidewalk of East Twelfth, between University Place and Broadway, observing the brownstone opposite. I hadn't yet discovered who lived there, but I knew it was a woman, as I had heard the man I was following, Mr. John Baker Tomlinson III, ask the maid if her mistress was at home. Her mistress, mark you, and no mention of a master. Maybe this time I had struck gold. No man of quality would visit an unchaperoned woman after dark without jeopardizing her reputation.
By 11 P.M. my suspect still hadn't emerged and I began to wonder if he was intending to stay the night. Not a happy thought for him, having to face an angry wife tomorrow morning, nor for me. It had begun to rain around nine and I had forgotten to bring an umbrella. I could feel my bonnet becoming soggier by the minute. My cloak was beginning to smell like wet sheep.
I stamped my feet and walked up and down a little, before I remembered that I was supposed to be invisible. My departed employer, Paddy Riley, could remain motionless, blended into the shadows for hours. I would never learn his patience; in fact I was beginning to question whether I was cut out for this line of work after all. I liked the excitement all right and it beat working in a sweatshop for eighteen hours a day or gutting fish at the Fulton Street market, which seemed the only other options for an Irish girl fresh off the boat. There had been a companion's position, but we won't go into my reasons for leaving that. It was still too painful to think about. Even after three months the ache wouldn't go away. Let's just say that proving I could do quite well without Daniel Sullivan was the main force that drove me to stand on a wet, windy sidewalk when most respectable folk were already in their beds.
There was a light on in the upstairs bedroom—a soft glow which hinted at a gas bracket turned down low, and not the harsher brightness of a new-fangled electric bulb which seemed to be the rage in this city—but the blinds were drawn. Was it too much to hope for that the wicked couple would come to the window and be silhouetted in passionate embrace? In fact, so far I had not managed to catch Mr. Tomlinson doing anything that might be grounds for divorce. I had loitered outside his Wall Street office. I had followed him to lunches at his club (all male) and dinners at restaurants (with respectable companions), but not a single hint so far to confirm his wife's suspicions that the illustrious Mr. Tomlinson was carrying on an illicit amorous liaison.
And if I now could provide proof that Mr. T had been straying, what then? I'd earn myself a big fat check and Mr. Tomlinson would be out on his ear—which was a shame as I rather liked him. In observing him from afar I had seen him to be polite, courteous, and with a good sense of humor. Again I asked myself whether the private investigator's life was really for me. What I wanted was something other than divorce cases, although Paddy had maintained they were his bread and butter. And bread and butter were surely needed at the moment.
The rain was now driving from the East River, forcing me to move into the comparative shelter of a flight of steps leading up to a front door. My back pressed against the brickwork of the house, I tried to look on the bright side of things. At least I wasn't starving. I had a splendid place to live and the chance to carve out a real profession for myself if I could only stand the elements!
I glanced up as the light in the upstairs room was extinguished. The curtains remained drawn. I watched and waited. Nothing moved, no door opened, no wandering husband slunk out of Number 135. I wasn't sure what to do next. Would I really have to hang around until morning? Not a pleasing prospect, given that the weather was getting worse by the minute. Fortunately Mr. Tomlinson had chosen his dalliance in my own corner of the city. My own room was but a ten-minute walk away down Fifth Avenue. I could slip home to change my clothes, have a bath and a good sleep and be back in position before dawn broke, this time equipped with an umbrella. Of course, Mr. Tomlinson could emerge from the house at any time during the night and I'd miss my opportunity. If I left my post, he'd undoubtedly slip out while I slept and I'd have to conduct a nightly vigil all over again. Besides, Paddy would never have left his post and I was trying to live up to his example.
I resolved to stick it out a little longer. If anyone could endure wind and rain, then it was surely I—having been raised on the wild west coast of Ireland where the rain usually fell horizontally and was whipped so hard by the driving wind that it stung like a swarm of bees. And nothing more than a shawl to wrap around me in those days either! Nothing like this long warm cape I had inherited from Paddy. I pulled it more closely around me and stuck my hands into the pockets to keep them warm.
Down at the other end of the block, on Broadway, the city was still awake. I heard a hansom cab clip clop past, the clang of a trolley car bell, raucous laughter, shouts, running feet. The city was never peaceful for long, but at least it was alive, which was more than I could say for County Mayo.
I stiffened as I heard a police whistle blowing, but the gale picked up and sounds were muffled again. Then I saw two figures coming along Twelfth Street toward me. I froze and stepped back behind the flight of steps, hoping they would pass by without noticing me. It was at times like this that I realized being a woman alone was a distinct disadvantage. Although I was still in a highly respectable neighborhood, only one block from the patricians of Fifth Avenue, things went downhill pretty quickly in the other direction and Broadway was not a street on which I'd feel comfortable walking alone at night. The footsteps came closer—a heavy measured tread of boots. I held my breath and pressed myself against the railing. They were almost past me when one of them turned. Before I knew what was happening, big hands reached out and grabbed me.
"Well, lookee what we've got here, Brendan!" a deep Irish voice boomed. "One of them did get away after all. And she's a little wild cat all right!" This last comment uttered as I tried to wriggle free from his grasp and swung a kick in the direction of his shins.
"Let go of me this instant!" I sounded less rattled than I really felt. "I'll call the police. I heard a police whistle just down the block. They'll be here in a second."
"Call the police—that's a good one, eh, Brendan?" The big man who had hold of my wrists chuckled. His taller, skinnier companion laughed too—a higher hee hee hee followed by a snort through his nose which I found very annoying.
"You don't think the New York City police can deal with the likes of you?" I was still attempting to remain calm and haughty. "Now unhand me immediately."
"A proper little firebrand, and Irish too," the big man said, as he attempted to bring my hands behind my back and I attempted to stamp on his toes. "We are the police, as you very well know."
Relief flooded through me as I recognized the familiar uniforms under their rain capes. "Then you're making a terrible mistake, officers. I am no criminal. I'm a respectable citizen."
This caused them more mirth. "A respectable citizen—and my father's the pope in Rome! You did a bunk through the back window when my partner and I raided Tom Sharkey's saloon a few minutes ago. So where did your fancy boy get to? Left you to face the music alone, did he?"
It was just beginning to dawn on me that they thought I was a woman of a very different occupation. "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. I'm thinking the pair of you are in need of glasses," I said angrily. "Look at me. Do I look like a woman of the streets?"
"She is kind of dowdy looking and she's not even wearing any rouge on her cheeks," Brendan commented. "Maybe we have made a mistake."
I decided to ignore this unflattering assessment of my charms. "Of course you've made a mistake. But I'll accept your apology, given that the light is so poor," I said.
"So maybe she wasn't the young girl who escaped from the bawdy house," the larger officer conceded, "but she's still up to no good. What would a respectable woman be doing out alone at this time of night?"
"If you really must know, I'm a private investigator, out on a case," I said. "I'm observing a house opposite."
If they had been mirthful before, then this time their jollity positively overflowed. They nudged each other in the side and staggered around guffawing while I gave my impression of Queen Victoria not being amused.
"If you don't believe me, I have my card in my purse," I said. "I am a partner at J. P. Riley and Associates. You must have met Paddy Riley."
"Paddy Riley?" The large constable gave me an incredulous glance. "Paddy Riley? You're not expecting me to believe that he'd ever work with a woman, are you? He hated women. Couldn't stand the sight of them. And anyway, Paddy Riley's dead and buried, in case you didn't know."
"Of course I know. I'm carrying on the business without him, or I would be if you two great clodhoppers would just leave me in peace."
He still had hold of my arm and I tried to wrench myself free.
"Oh no, you're coming with us, my dear. Whatever you were doing, I'll wager you were up to no good."
"Observing the house opposite, she says," the skinny one called Brendan commented, looking smug. "Do you think she could be working with the Dusters, scouting out places to rob?"
"Holy Mother of God! Of course I'm not scouting out places to rob. If you'll just let go of me, I can produce any number of respected citizens who will vouch for me. In fact if you take me to your police station, I'm afraid you're going to look very foolish because I happen to be a good friend of—" I bit my tongue and left the rest of the sentence hanging. I was dying to see their faces when I told them that their own Captain Daniel Sullivan could vouch for me, but I wasn't going to use his name every time I was in a jam. He'd be only too delighted to remind me yet again that I was playing with fire and no good would come from trying to be part of a man's world.
"A good friend of whom, my dear?" the large officer asked. "The mayor, was it? Or the governor? Or maybe our new president Teddy himself?" He grinned at the other policeman again and dug him in the ribs.
"You'll see," I said, determined not to lose my dignity. Then I added, as they began to manhandle me away, "And please put me down. I am not a sack of potatoes. I have two good feet and can walk on my own."
"Just as long as you don't try to do a bunk on us," the large officer said.
"Do the Dusters ever use women?" Brendan asked we started to walk away. "I know the old Gophers had some terrible fierce women working with them, but I don't know that much about the Dusters."
"They're getting very tricky these days. No knowing what they'll try next," the other officer said.
The rain had eased off and the street lamps were reflected in puddles.
"Who are these Dusters?" I asked.
"The Hudson Dusters? You've never heard of them?" Brendan sounded surprised. "This is their territory, west of Broadway all the way to the Hudson."
"Are they some kind of gang then?"
"One of the biggest—along with the Eastmans and the Five Pointers, of course."
"That's enough, Brendan. She knows very well who the Dusters are. I'll wager one of their squealers will identify her for us in the morning."
I heard the sound of a front door slamming behind us down the street and looked around to see a tall figure in a long greatcoat and top hat hurrying in the direction of Fifth Avenue. It looked like Mr. Tomlinson but I had now missed seeing him come out of the house. Since one of my captors liked to gab, I couldn't resist asking, "So that house I was watching, the one with the two bay trees in pots beside the front door—you don't happen to know who owns it?"
Brendan took the bait right away. "That's Mrs. Tomlinson's house, wouldn't you say, Brian?"
"Your mouth's going to be the death of you, boy," the older policeman snapped. "You should know better than that. Next you'll be lending her your nightstick to break in with."
"I wasn't doing no harm ..."
I hardly heard this exchange. My brain was still trying to digest what Brendan had said. "Mrs. Tomlinson?" I said, looking appealingly at him. "You don't mean the wife of John Baker Tomlinson, do you? I've been to her residence. It's on Fifty-second Street on the East Side."
"No, this is an older woman—a widow. Maybe it's your man's mother."
Terrific, I thought as we sloshed our way down Sixth Avenue toward the Jefferson Market police station. I had spent an entire evening risking pneumonia, getting myself arrested, and all to watch Mr. John Baker Tomlinson III visit his mother! As a detective it appeared I still had a long way to go.CHAPTER 2
The Jefferson Market police station was in the triangular-shaped complex that also held a fire station, a jail, and the market itself. It was a mere stone's throw from my house on Patchin Place and I looked longingly as we crossed Tenth Street.
"Look, Officers, I live just across the street," I said. "If you'd just take me home, my friends will vouch for me."
"You're not going anywhere till morning," the brusque constable said, giving my arm a warning squeeze. "We've been instructed to bring in any individuals behaving suspiciously and a young woman, out alone late at night, counts as suspicious in my book."
"But I've explained what I was doing."
"You can explain it to my sergeant." I was shoved into the police station. "When he gets here in the morning," he added.
"You mean I have to stay here all night?" For the first time I began to feel alarmed. I had been in jail once before and I had no wish to repeat the experience. "You can't keep an innocent person in jail with no cause."
"You watch your mouth or I'll have you for resisting arrest," the constable said. "Go on. Down to the lockup with you."
Excerpted from For the Love of Mike by Rhys Bowen. Copyright © 2003 Rhys Bowen. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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